It’s Not About the Nail

It’s Not About the Nail

 How many of us are fixers?  How many of us are problem solvers?  For many of us the answer to a problem is not far from our fingertips or mouths.  The answer might be easily identifiable and yet on the way to getting to that answer we may miss some important steps which include listening and validating emotions.

Being in the world of mediation, we are all familiar that it’s not always about “the nail” and that often is it more about the fact that parties are wanting to be heard and validated in their feelings.

I work a part time job at Lane Bryant and received a phone call from a very distraught woman the other night.  She was on a mission to find a dress for her mom which was going to be for her brother’s wedding.  The woman lives out in Colorado and had been calling local Binghamton area stores because this is where her mom lives (and her mother was wanting to go into a store to be able to try the dresses on).  She gave me a description of what she was looking for and I put her on hold to check our inventory.  After a very thorough search I was not able to find anything and felt pretty bad to have to tell her that because I knew that this would not be good news for her (already sensing her frustration).  I got back on the phone and told her that our store did not have the item she was looking for but I was then able to give her at least 5 other places where she could check.  We got to chatting and it turns out that her brother had said some pretty harsh words to her about having to find their mom a dress for the wedding and that had placed a lot of pressure on her.  I wound up chatting with this woman for 15 minutes listening to her- validating her frustration in trying to make something work from the other side of the country.  At that moment in time, she needed someone to listen to what was happening for her personally, even more so than just finding a dress.  She went on and on about how thankful she was for my helpfulness and willingness to listen and how it really made a difference in her day.

A 15 minute phone call changed someone’s day.  I was able to set aside what could have been my own agenda (getting her to buy something anyhow, get her off the phone as quick as possible, or even pass her off to someone else) in order to be even more productive.  In the end, it is far more likely that she will advise her mom to come and shop at our store and I was able to help her.  She was able to clearly identify how she was feeling and why she was feeling that way when she may not have been as aware of her feelings prior to our phone call.

Often times, as mediators, it may be easy for us to see the solution and try to drive the mediation in that direction while overstepping some pretty important pieces.  All mediations are different, and there will be some where emotional validation may not be as needed as it be will for others.  The point here being, let this be a reminder, to be on the lookout for those parties who need time and validation to process the emotions they are dealing with.  I know our first response can easily be, “But we are not therapists” and this is true, we are not, but we are people dealing with other people who do not have conflict inside a vacuum.  Conflict is not void of people’s personalities, emotions, and history of relationship. As mediators, it is important that we go to our tool box and remind ourselves of the tools and resources we have been equipped with.  Emotional validation is one tool that each of us should continue to reflect on and be sure sharpen, in order to help those parties needing that outlet and affirmation in conflict.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s